I pronomi indiretti

Indirect objects pronouns

Read the strip. What is it that doesn’t work? Click here for the translation.

When you read or hear the dialogue above, it sounds pretty choppy and that’s because instead of using a pronoun (a word that is used instead of a noun) the woman and man speaking are saying “a Giulia” over and over again. If you had to express the same thing in English you would certainly write and say “to her/her” to avoid an annoying repetition of the same word. Don’t worry! The above dialogue sounds odd even to a mother tongue person since Italian, like English, have pronouns that must be used to make sentences clearer, less awkward, and smoother.

In this chapter you are learning the indirect direct object pronouns, those that can replace the indirect object nouns. Let me explain what “indirect object” means with two examples:

  • Io do un fiore a mia zia (I give my aunt a flower / I give a flower to my aunt)
  • Preparo la cena per i miei bambini (I prepare dinner for my children)

An indirect object is a noun that receives the action of a verb indirectly. While direct object nouns and pronouns answer the questions che cosa? or chi? (see Unità 13.3), indirect object nouns and pronouns answer the questions a chi /per chi? (to whom / for whom?).  The nouns  (a) mia zia and (per) i miei bambini are both indirect objects because they “answer” the question a chi /per chi? Direct object pronouns replace direct object nouns when the contest is clear and there is no possibility of confusion. You already know these pronouns, and you know how to use them. In fact, they are the same ones you use with the verb piacere (see Unità 4.3)

The following common Italian verbs are often used with indirect object nouns or pronouns. You already know the majority if not all of them. For practice and pronunciation, use Quizlet.

Note: Unfortunately not all Italian verbs that take an indirect object, and accordingly, an indirect object pronoun, have an English equivalent with the same construction, and vice versa. This means that a verb may take an indirect object and thus an indirect object pronoun in Italian but not in English. This is for example of telefonare (to call [by phone]): Telefono al professore, gli telefono questa sera (I’ll call the professor; I’ll call him tonight). A good dictionary should indicate if a verb takes a direct object or not.


Indirect Object Pronouns
The table below displays the indirect object pronouns, their English equivalents, and a sample of their use.

mi (= a/per me) ‘to/for me Mi puoi parlare?Can you talk to me?
ti (= a/per te) ‘to/for you’ (sing.) Ti offro un caffèI offer you a coffee.
gli (= a/per lui) ‘to/for him Gli dico di venire I tell him to come.
le (= a/per lei) ‘to/for her Le faccio un piacere I do her a favor.
Le (= a/per Lei) ‘to/for you’ (form.) Signora, le chiedo di uscire.  Ma’am, I ask you to go out.
ci (= a/per noi) ‘to/for us Lei ci dà sempre dei regali utili. She always give us useful gifts.
vi (= a/per voi) ‘to/for you’ (pl.) Vi preparo un tè. I make tea for you (all).
gli (= a/per loro) ‘to/for them Gli dico la verità. I tell them the truth.
  • Like the direct object pronouns (see Unità 13.3), indirect object pronouns (mi, ti, gli, etc.) are placed right before the conjugated verb (Io ti parloI am talking to you’,  Lei gli ha dato un bacioShe gave him a kiss’) or they attach to the infinitive verb form after this has dropped its final e (Preferisco dirti la verità ‘I prefer to tell you the truth’, Che bello parlarle!What a nice thing to talk to her!’). If the infinitive follows the verb potere (can), dovere (must) and volere (to want) the pronoun may either attach to the infinitive (Posso/Devo/ Voglio parlarviI can/must/want to talk to you’) or precede the entire verb phrase (Vi posso/devo/voglio parlareI can/must/want to talk you’)
  • The forms a/per me, a/per te, etc. can be used as well, even if the forms mi, ti, etc. are always preferable. When used, they follow  the forms of the verb (Io parlo a te; Lei ha dato un bacio a lui;  Preferisco dire a te la verità; Posso/Devo/Voglio parlare a voi)
  • They never elide before a verb beginning with a vowel or an ‘h’
  • Unlike the direct object pronouns, when used with Passato prossimo they never modify the ending of the past participle of the verb that always ends in -o (Vi hanno parlato?Did they talk to you (all)?, Ho incontrato Franca e le ho dato un fioreI saw Franca and I gave her a flower’)
“Ti amo” or “Ti voglio bene”?

Italians have to ways to express love for people (as you have already learned, Italians do not “love” things [Unità 4.3]). Since the verb amare has a physical and passionate implication, it can’t be used with parents, siblings, friends, and pets but only with lovers: You can say Io amo mia moglie, but not Io amo mia madre, mia figlia, etc. For these persons, Italians use the verb voler bene instead. Voler bene can also be used with lovers when one wants to express fondness, affection more than passion.

The two verbs are also different grammatically. One requires direct objects and direct object pronouns (amare chi?), the other the indirect ones (voler bene a chi?). Note the difference:

  • Io amo Mario > Io lo amo / Io voglio bene a Mario > Io gli voglio bene
  • Io amo Maria > Io la amo / Io voglio bene a Maria > Io le voglio bene
  • Io amo gli uomini > Io li amo / Io voglio bene agli uomini > Io gli voglio bene
  • Io amo le donne > Io le amo / Io voglio bene alle donne > Io gli voglio bene

When used with the 1st and 2nd persons the two verbs  apparently have the same construction simply because the indirect and indirect pronouns have the same form:

  • Tu mi amo (= Tu ami me) /Tu mi vuoi bene (Tu vuoi bene a me)
  • Io ti amo (= Io amo te) / Io ti voglio bene (Io voglio bene a te)
  • Voi ci amate (= Voi amate noi) / Voi ci volete bene (Voi volete bene a noi)
  • Noi vi amiamo (= Noi amiamo voi) / Noi vi vogliamo bene (Noi vogliamo bene a voi)

Of course, one can simply love, love very much or even too much, so words such as molto/tanto, moltissimo/tantissimo, troppo can always be added: Ti amo moltissimo, anche troppo (I love you a lot, even too much). With volere bene these words go in between: Lei mi vuole molto bene (She loves me). Phrases such as volere un gran bene e volere tutto il bene del mondo are very common.

  • Look at the above strip. Rewrite the dialogue replacing “a Giulia” with the correct indirect object pronoun. Check if there are mistakes in your written Italian using the Spell and Grammar Checker.
  • Have a short conversation with another student. Include in the dialogue a few sentences where you say what you (would) like to do to him/her. You both can check your spoken Italian using Speech to Text.

Previous > La mia casa
Next > Niente, nulla e nessuno